By William Wolf


The absurdities are piled high in the preposterous “Anonymous,” director Roland Emmerich’s nonsensical tale taking the position that Shakespeare was too ignorant to have written the great plays attributed to him. The screenplay by John Orloff depicts the real author as Edward de Vere (Rhys Ifans), the 17th Earl of Oxford, and Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) as an unsavory character.

The notion that Shakespeare didn’t write the works attributed to him has long been debunked by scholars, but theories and arguments persist. What Emmerich and Orloff do is concoct an intricate drama around the theory, present what is palmed off as the real story, and interlock it with political intrigue at the time.

While the film gains from the overall look of a costume drama, the political intertwining makes events murky and often confusing. One has to approach the film, if one cares to approach it at all, by suspending disbelief and just going with the story on its own terms. Admittedly, that is difficult to do.

The casting helps. Joely Richardson is the young Queen Elizabeth I and Vanessa Redgrave plays her in later years. Derek Jacoby has the dubious distinction of being the narrator trying to bridge the gap between now and then. This is not a film to make English Lit scholars happy, nor is it one likely to please those seeking a profound literary film. Columbia Pictures release.


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